While Thanksgiving is often marked by large family gatherings that require travel and accommodating houses to large groups of people, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic this year, public health experts are strongly advising against typical celebrations.
Dr. Joseph Moser, chief medical officer of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, in an interview advised first and foremost to spend the holiday with immediate family in one household. Moser said with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) implementing additional restrictions amid rising COVID-19 cases in the state, normal Thanksgiving activities will be limited.
“Celebrating with people in your immediate family or household doesn’t pose any more risk than any other day,” Moser said. “People that you see with some frequency, as long as no one has been engaging in risky behavior, the risk should be pretty low.”
Moser said the state is currently recommending gatherings of no more than ten people for Thanksgiving. He said whenever friends, family or other individuals get together that have not seen each other that recently, additional safety measures should take place.
“If you are going out in a group and not paying attention or not wearing masks, you are getting into a territory that is to blame for a good deal of the surge right now,” Moser said. “With the change in the weather, people are spending more time indoors and that increases the risk of transmission.”
Moser advised that if exposed to the virus, individuals should isolate, family and household members who have just tested positive or are untested with flu-like symptoms should stay isolated and not join Thanksgiving celebrations with others. He said that if only one person in a group of 25 has the virus, it is much more likely that everyone sharing that room could become infected.
“This is a bit of a complicated situation, people are going to have to make decisions they have not made in years,” Moser said.
Moser suggested to replace a large in-person gathering, families could set up a virtual call through Zoom or other video conferencing site. He said the holiday will not be the same without in-person interaction, but that is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You can still see and talk with one another, but you run no risk of having a family member infect everyone,” Moser said.
Moser advised that if citizens are traveling somewhere to join family, particularly somewhere warmer, to use masks to the fullest extent possible. He also suggested eating outdoors with six feet of distance between each attendee.
Moser said that due to recent COVID-19 trends within the state, the same restrictive advice will most likely follow with the December holidays. He said that even with hope of an impending vaccine, restrictions should stay in place for the safety of the community until otherwise directed by healthcare professionals.
Moser said that no one wants to live with the accountability of potentially spreading the virus to family members. He said the virus is highly infectious compared to other illnesses and it is highly variable in terms of symptoms, making the safest way to enjoy holidays not mixing with people who are not actively involved in your life.
“Nothing else in 2020 has been easy, I wish that we could say something more pleasant,” Moser said. “We need to forego those activities we are used to doing and help to reduce the overall risk of acquiring COVID-19 within the community and the state.”